Distribs cook holiday stuffing

Bond, 'Potter' will make it tough for newcomers

Distribs will try to stuff five new wide releases into an already crowded movie market over the long Turkey Day sesh.

Disney could grab the biggest box office drumstick with family tooner “Treasure Planet,” skedded for 3,179 theaters. But all of the openers will fight for a share of frame’s B.O. feast with MGM soph sesher “Die Another Day” and Warner Bros.’ sequel phenom “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” entering a third sesh.

Here’s who else is coming to dinner:

  • A second tooner — Sony’s edgy “Adam Sandler’s 8 Crazy Nights,” which debuts with 2,503 engagements;

  • Twentieth Century Fox’s “Solaris,” an R-rated sci-fier helmed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney that’s set to orbit more than 2,406 locations;

  • A Miramax/Dimension horror pic, “Wes Craven Presents: They,” which stalks 1,475-plus venues;

  • And Paramount actioner “Extreme Ops,” unspooling with 1,800 playdates.

Thanksgiving weekend usually boasts one of the best box office seshes of the year, and often the Mouse House seems to grab the biggest grosses over the family friendly frame. But last year, Warners’ original “Potter” pic repped the sesh’s best perf over its second weekend in release.

Industyites are taking as an auspicious sign for the year-end box office that the Thanksgiving sesh has turned into such a feeding frenzy.

“Five wide releases — that rarely happens,” said Dan Marks, exec veep at B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI.

Historically, a single distrib has often dominated the weekend, but the recent trend has been toward increasing numbers of distribs taking places at the Turkey Day B.O. banquet. There was just one wide release over the 1999 Thanksgiving (Universal’s “End of Days”), two over the 2000 and three last year.

The last truly crowded Turkey Day sesh was marked in 1998. That’s when four wide openers were joined by a second-week expansion for Disney/Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life” following earlier exclusive engagement.

This year, “Treasure Planet” is expected to gross north of $30 million over the five-day frame. Such a perf could rocket tooner to the top of the B.O. galaxy over the holiday-lengthened sesh.

Mouse House is trying a first-ever simultaneous giant-screen rollout for “Planet,” unspooling the visually dense family fantasy in 39 large-format venues in addition to its thousands of conventional screens. Historically, Disney tooners have waited until after tooners’ conventional runs before bowing pics in large format.

“This will be the greatest visual experience they ever had,” Mouse distrib boss Chuck Viane said of the prospects for giant-screen play.

“Planet” boasts state-of the-art traditional animation with visuals punched up further by substantial computerized enhancements.

Meanwhile, a modest 40% drop by MGM’s James Bond pic would produce $28 million over its second weekend. So, padded by Wednesday and Thursday grosses in the high single-digit millions, “Die” could survive another week at the top if it gets well past $30 million over five days.

Warners’ “Potter” will be trying to post a better market hold over the long holiday frame than exhibited in its soph sesh, when the sequel family fantasy dropped 52% to $42.2 million. A 50% slide this weekend padded by grosses in the single-digit millions on Wednesday and Thursday could produce a five-day haul pushing $30 million.

Also tipped to do at least decent biz are “8 Crazy Nights” and “Solaris,” with “They” and “Ops” potentially trailing sesh’s other wide openers.

The Sandler pic keys on hopes of big support from topliner’s usual fan base. Steven Soderbergh-helmed “Solaris” will need to convince mainstream auds sci-fier is palatable to commercial tastes.

“We’ve gotten some early reviews that have been wonderful, and we’re hopeful,” Fox distrib prexy Bruce Snyder.

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